Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Biringan (Part 2): Portals

Portals to and from an ethereal city. There are places in the island of Samar that have been described thus.

There’s one story of a bus plying the night route from Catbalogan City to Tacloban City. Somewhere halfway, when the bus had been emptied of its passengers, the driver and conductor stopped to pick up two young lady passengers. Their stated destination was quite off the main route but the driver consented because the two had offered triple the usual fare. When the two mysterious passengers had alighted, and the driver turned the bus around to get back on the highway. But, to his utter bewilderment, he could no longer distinguish the dirt road they had taken just moments ago. Conceding that they were lost, they decided to spend the night at that very spot. At dawn the next day, they were confounded when they found themselves and the bus at a desolate mountain top. A large tow truck had to be sent through rough mountain trails just to bring the bus back to civilization.

Then there’s the story of a bus that somehow lost its way and the driver stopped to pass the night at some sort of depot. When he and his passengers woke up the next morning they were in themiddle of a clump or bamboos with no roads anywhere around them that would have brought them where they were.

Perhaps the most classic example of these gateways involved two motorcycle riders riding tandem on one bike. They were traveling the highway at night from (Western) Samar to Eastern Samar. It was around nine o-clock in the evening and they were negotiating the foggy, winding passes halfway to Borongan, Eastern Samar. The night air was chilly and only their motorcycle headlights split the dark ahead. The deafening silence was only punctuated by the occasional chirping of insects.

Suddenly, as they rounded a sharp curve, they were suddenly engulfed in a bedlam of sound! It was as if they had entered a very busy freeway, invisible to them but its sound assaulted their ears. Shrill air horns blared from every direction and sudden gusts of wind rocked their motorcycle as if huge trailer trucks were passing them by on all sides. The driver tried his very best to keep the motorcycle handlebar steady.

It was only after they had round the next curve that the noise suddenly died down and the night air was deathly still once more. Still, these two motorcycle riders and scores of other highways travelers will never forget their encounters with Biringan’s portals.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Biringan (Part 1): The Land of Enchantment

In the Province of Samar, the Philippines, the mention of “Biringan” evokes awe, fear, intrigue, knocking on wood and innumerable signs of the Cross.

What is Biringan? It is reportedly an undefined location somewhere between Calbayog City and Catarman, Northern Samar, where a mythic city(ies) of indescribable grandeur is/are said to exist, unvisited by ordinary mortals, known only by magnificent folk stories that refuse to die despite the advent of television and the internet. Other reports extend its area to as far south as San Jorge, Samar.

Biringan’s “now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t” quality indicates it is not of the usual land and water terrain in which we live in. It seems to exist in a different dimension, which explains why its boundaries can overlap with known towns and cities of Samar island. On moonless nights, seafarers aplenty have reported seeing a dazzling city of light. In a few minutes, though, the manifestation is no longer visible. Obviously, Biringan is not likely to be shown on any map or atlas. But specialized (infrared, ultraviolet, etc.) satellite mapping photography have reportedly turned up a shining area in the reported general location of Biringan.

They say Biringan is the legendary home of the encantos (enchanted ones) and half-encanto, half-human progeny. The encantos are most likely elementals, as old as the mountains and rivers in the area. They are apparently shapechangers because they have been reported to appear in whatever form they wish, human or not. But in human form, their distinguishing characteristic is the lack of the philtrum, the indentation below the nose and above the upper lip.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Phantom Companion

A phantom companion is the last thing you would ever want, especially when you’re out in the streets in the dark of dawn. That’s exactly what happened to an elderly woman on her way to church one cold October dawn in Calbiga, Samar Province, the Philippines.

The Philippines is the only Roman Catholic nation in Asia. Devout Catholics, especially the elderly, make it a habit to attend early dawn Masses every day. This elderly woman left her home at around 4:30 A.M. and started heading for church about five blocks away. As was her routine, the lady was on foot, clutching her rosary and prayer books. The street was deserted except for a few stray dogs barking at her as she passed by.

One hundred meters from the church, an round tin lid (like the ones that come with cracker cans) flew out from somewhere, landed beside her, and rolled from the momentum. The old woman was a bit annoyed. She kept thinking a group of teenagers, still out from the previous evening’s revelry, was playing a prank on her. She dismissed it and continued walking since she couldn’t see anyone in the darkness at all.

A strange feeling came upon her and prompted her to look to her side. The round tin lid was still rolling, keeping pace with her a good fifty meters from where it had landed beside her! It was all she could do to quicken her pace as cold dread crept over her entire being. Still, the tin lid kept rolling by her side! It was only at the church grounds’ gate that the round tin lid fell on its face and lay still. It had rolled a full one hundred meters, clearly a violation of the laws of physics.

Was it possessed by an evil spirit? You be the judge. Whether you have an open mind or what, on dark, restless nights, you would never ever want a phantom companion.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Man Mountain

Man Mountain. A very apt description of the nocturnal monster that roams, or used to roam the town of Calbiga and its environs.

My mother was a native of the idyllic town of Calbiga in the province of Samar in the Philippines. I stayed there when I was about 3 or 4 years old. The town is nestled in a fertile valley beside the mighty Calbiga River. The place is quiet except for the sound of an occasional vehicle and the residents are mostly devoted Roman Catholics. The elders are respected and are the source of wisdom by the rest of the population. It is also from the old people that you hear of stories of the supernatural which actually happened in town.

One of the most pervasive supernatural Calbiga folklore involved the reported Man Mountain, kapre or agta in the Visayan vernacular. It is characterized to be a tree demon, but with more human characteristics. It is described as being a tall (7 to 9 ft), brown, hairy male with a beard. Kapres are normally described as smoking a large tobacco pipe, whose strong smell would attract human attention. Kapres are said to dwell in big trees like acacias, mangoes, bamboo and banyan (known in the Philippines as balete). A kapre is said to often wear a belt which gives it the ability to be invisible to humans if it wants. Further, a kapre is supposed to hold a magical white stone, a little smaller in size from that of a quail egg, which if obtained by a human, the kapre could be obliged to grant wishes. Kapres are not necessarily considered to be evil. They may make contact with humans to offer friendship. Kapres have been also said to play pranks on people, frequently making travelers become disoriented and lose their way in the mountains or in the woods. It is also believed to have the ability to confuse people even at their own familiar surroundings; for instance, someone who forgets that they are in their own garden or home are said to be have been tricked by a kapre. Reports of experiencing kapre enchantment include that of witnessing rustling tree branches even if the wind is not strong; hearing loud laughter or voice coming from an unseen being; witnessing lots of smoke from the top of a tree; seeing big fiery eyes during night time from a tree; as well as actually seeing a kapre walking by in forested areas. At night, an unfortunate traveler might happen to pass by one of these trees and notice a shower of sparks from the kapre’s lit cigar.

The most popular story about the Calbiga kapre involved a female public school teacher. She was working on her lesson plans at her house one evening. Calbiga houses of old were then made mostly of wooden planks for walls and doors and thatch roofs. At around midnight, the poor teacher felt the ground shake. She surmised it couldn’t be an earthquake because the shaking was rhythmic. Curious but afraid to open her doors and windows, the teacher peeked through a gap in the wooden plank wall.

She felt ice-cold chills on her spine when she peeked just in time to see a tall, massive, dark figure pass by her house. The figure was faintly illuminated by the full moon and it had enormous hairy thighs as large as coconut tree trunks. Thick dark hair covered its entire body. It was the kapre on its favorite nocturnal haunt.

There have been no reported incident of a kapre ever mangling a human being. In fact, like the sasquatch of North America, it prefers more not being disturbed. Rather, a kapre likes to scare people rather than harm them. Encounters between the kapre and humans have mostly been caused by the latter straying into the kapre’s territory or path. In the Eighties, stories of sightings of the kapre have subsided. Presumably, because of the advance of human habitation, it has retreated deep into the lush rain forests of the province of Samar. Still, when parents in the Philippines admonish their children to be good, they invoke the name of the Man Mountain.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Writer of Supernatural Stories Re-Awakened

Hello. Call me Valkyrie. I am a writer of supernatural stories re-awakened. I am an employee of the Philippine government. Writing is my deepest passion. In high school, 1972-1976, I would be sent as delegate to campus journalism workshops all over the Philippines and I would end up winning in the writing competitions. There was a time when I published a school science newsletter all by myself. I literally wrote ninety percent of the articles and edited the entire paper. On weekends, I would write essays and short stories just for the sheer pleasure of it and lock all these up in a big wooden box in the attic.

After attending college at the University of the Philippines, I got my first job in 1985 as an Electronic Data Processing employee at the Philippines’ only copper refinery (Philippine Associated Smelting & Refining Corp.) at Isabel, Leyte Province, Philippines. The company maintained a corporate newsletter and I was one of those picked to be trained by veteran journalists from Manila. I would go on to contribute numerous articles from the serious to the whimsical.

In writing, you let your creative juices flow. Where before, I would make do with dirtying whole sheets of paper with rewrites and revisions, computers and the internet have changed all that. Blogging has given me and thousands of others the opportunity to give vent to creativity and originality. And reach millions of readers.

I am launching this web log to give you all an entertaining and mentally stimulating literary experience. I am full of stories that would keep you riveted to this blog. How’s that for a writer of supernatural stories re-awakened … ?